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LYRA, issue 2
Photography Mareike Muller

The magazine exploring when self-love becomes vanity

The new issue of LYRA explores the contradictory link between self-love and vanity that saw 2016 basically go up in flames

“Never has self-love been more needed, or vanity been so widespread,” founder and editor-in-chief of indie arts and culture mag LYRA, Georgina Gray, explains. We are repeatedly told to love and respect ourselves no matter what, but where does that end before turning into narcissism? The world’s least-qualified politician just took over as leader of the free world with a campaign of lies and narcissism – Donald Trump’s unapologetic confidence never hindered his chances of becoming the Potus. But any normal person exuding that much ego would be fucked.

The second issue of LYRA explores this contradictory link between self-love and vanity while lifting the lid on the egotistic uprising of 21st-century politics. With a bold, cross-generational perspective, LYRA deals these uncomfortable truths with a focus on the positive, so things don’t feel too irreversibly shit.

Launching this year with a fiery first issue on lust and other things, LYRA’s second issue is rammed with enlightening reads and intimate personal stories. From an investigation into celeb culture’s influence on politics and the lowdown on the government’s role in happiness, your switched-on side won’t get bored. It’s not all about politics, though. The rest of the issue explores further contradictions, from body image and consumption to satire and selfishness. Philosopher Jeff Black investigates whether modern day self-love is a virtue or a sin; psychotherapist Susie Orbach prospects a future where Selfridges’ beauty department belongs to men and not women; young Kiwi photographer Constance Watson delves into the price of masculinity; Philippa Snow gives advice on how to explain selfie sticks to our grandchildren; and model Georgia Hilmer exposes her pleasure, joy, and fear when meeting her idol, author Zadie Smith. Gioia De Bruijn also creates a stunning photo essay charting boyhood, and Ukrainian photography duo Synchrodogs snap an otherworldly cover shoot.

We caught up with LYRA’s founder and editor-in-chief Georgina Gray to talk about the economy of self-love and the shit-show that is the current political circus.

LYRA’s second issue covers the theme of ‘self love & vanity’. What made you pick this particular theme?

Georgina Gray: Self-love is a popular term today. We are constantly being told to love ourselves. It seems to be a directive that we give or get to support a more fulfilling life. This is important, especially for women, for people of colour, for the disabled, for the queer. If you’re constantly being told you’re not up to scratch (because of your wheelchair, your skin, your weight, your sexuality), telling yourself that you are is difficult and, because of this, should be celebrated.

But we also live in vain times. ‘Politicians’ from Putin to Trump to Boris rely on expressions of themselves – rather than expressions of ideas – to garner support. They make empty claims. Celebrity, which seems to have reached its apex at the turn of this century, has gone further – it no longer apes those who’ve achieved, but is aped by the achievers.

Never has self-love been more needed, or vanity been so widespread.

How has narcissism and vanity influenced 2016’s tragic turn of events, do you think?

Georgina Gray: Donald Trump has long been labelled a narcissist by people across the political spectrum.

We tend to blame social media for creating a generation of people who need to be followed or liked, while political leaders who care only for celebrity status are labelled political narcissists. The question really should be, ‘What does it say about our society that individuals with such deep narcissistic obsession with themselves frequently rise to the top ruling circles, attaining wealth, power and the admiration and support of millions?’

We are all anxious and fearful, and therefore we are unable to recognise the flaws in those seeking power. We can mistake desperate ambition for determination, see grandiosity as authority, paranoia as security, seductiveness as charm, dogmatism as decisiveness, selfishness as economic wisdom, manipulation as political savvy, lack of principles as flexibility. Corruption and aggressive self-promotion often lead to success.

The faults of our leaders mirror the emotional and intellectual underdevelopment of the society that elevates them to power.

What type of person reads LYRA?

Georgina Gray: We worry that, too often, publications are split between those for the young and those for the ‘old’, because we believe print media should appeal to people of all ages. This is reflected in our team and the contributors we feature in our magazine.

How hard is it to survive as an indie magazine in the chaos? 

Georgina Gray: It is extremely hard. We spend so much time putting the content together and making it beautiful, and then we want to get it out to our readers, but the money we make through sales or distribution is so tiny, it doesn’t even cover the print. Add the shipping costs, it is an impossible business model. The only way to survive is to build relationships with brands and consider advertisements while at the same time trying to withstand the commercial pressure.

What’s Thursday’s gin-fuelled launch party going to be like?

Georgina Gray: We want our readers to get together and get the better idea of who we are. It is about experience and the community that extends beyond the printed pages. It is time for conversation and celebration, lingering over the subjects featured in the magazine while sipping gin, rediscovering the magic in ordinary while watching films by upcoming artists and filmmakers, and getting the nostalgia back with the finest vinyl.

LYRA issue two launches on October 24 at Hackney Showroom. Pre-order a copy here